How do you measure the ROI of attending a trade show?

Posted on Apr 18, 2016

How to measure the success of your exhibition

How to measure the success of your exhibition, trade show, or expoBefore deciding to attend a trade show it’s important that you know exactly what you want to get from your presence at your chosen event, and how you intend to measure your success.

A Deloitte study revealed that the following are the most common reasons companies attend events, conferences, exhibitions and trade shows.

  • 63% Promote Company capabilities & awareness
  • 51% Introduce new products
  • 46% Get sales leads from new prospects
  • 36% Get sales leads from existing customers
  • 21% Generate immediate sales orders
  • 20% Improve/maintain PR

This is by no means a definitive list and there are various other reasons a company might attend a trade show, these however, are a great starting point.

So, before you show up at your exhibition, you need to decide what you aim to get from the event and how you’re going to quantify it as a success. Well we’ve put together a few thoughts to help you to make sure you know what you want to achieve and how to measure if you did so successfully.

Set Goals

Define exactly what you want to achieve from your presence at the trade show. Whether your goals are revenue based or they’re less clear and easy to measure, make sure you head into your event knowing exactly what you want to achieve.

For example, saying you want to “increase awareness in your brand” in not really a goal that can be easily measured. However, saying that you would like to “take contact details for X amount of warm and qualified leads to be able to follow up on after the event” is an easily measurable goal that you can gauge the success of after the exhibition finishes.

Set Timeframes

In addition to setting goals for your trade show appearance, set time frames in which to achieve those goals. Perhaps set yourself the goal of following up on all of the warm leads you’ve collected within 5 working days of the end of the show.

This is both easily measurable and easily achievable. And, it is best practice for following up on warm leads from exhibitions before they begin to cool again.

Measuring Revenue Generated

Measuring the amount of revenue your company generates that can be directly attributed to a trade show is difficult, given that it is rare for sales to be closed at the exhibition itself and sometimes leads might take months, or even years, to convert.

Here’s a link to a fairly simple and accurate way of estimating the revenue you’ll generate after an appearance at a trade show – which coincidentally is one of the same methods used by Coca-Cola, amongst others.

You can get a fairly accurate and acceptable approximation of your ROI that is based on real statistics provided by your sales department. Meaning that your Directors and sales team are more likely to accept the figure as an achievable measure of potential revenue from the exhibition. It is then down to the sales team to close the deals.

Measuring Cost Savings

By cost savings, we don’t mean money not spent from your exhibition budget. What we mean, is money that you would have spent elsewhere and by appearing at the trade show, you have not had to spend.

A good example of this would again be well illustrated using a reference to Coca-Cola.

At the Food Marketing Institute exhibition in 2004, Coca-Cola held around 50 meetings with high level customers, each of whom, if met individually outside of the event, would have incurred a cost to the company of circa £1500 a time for travel and other expenses. That’s a staggering £75,000 saved by meeting these customers in one place at the same time.

If you can manage to get any of your channel partners, investors, existing and renewing customers, and warm prospects that you were planning to meet anyway during the year to attend the trade show you’ll be at and meet with you there, it could save you thousands.

Observation & Feedback

Another effective way of measuring your success is to encourage and seek out extensive observations and feedback.

Talk to the staff you had on your stand, talk to your management team, talk to your new prospects and existing customers and find out how valuable they thought your attendance was.

Some of the questions you might want to ask include;

  • What was the most valuable part of the show and why?
  • What was the least valuable part and why?
  • Did you find our pre-show promotions effective and why/why not?
  • Was the stand’s location good and why/why not?
  • Were there enough (or too many) people at the stand and why?
  • Was the size of the stand appropriate and why?
  • Was the company literature effective and why?
  • Were the giveaways worthwhile and why?
  • Did you feel we displayed the right products and why?
  • Did the signs convey the right message and did the stand attract your attention and why?
  • What should we do again and why?
  • What shouldn’t we do again and why?
  • How could we make it better?

Further to asking these questions (and any others you can think of) most trade shows and exhibitions will have a show manager or hire a professional company that will carry out additional audits, evaluation and measurement of the event in order to evaluate its success.

Check with the show manager what information exhibitors are entitled to and if additional information will be made available for you to purchase. If that turns out to be too expensive, it’s really simple to create your own and send it to the people whose email addresses you collected via SurveyMonkey.


There are many different ways to measure the success of your appearance at a trade show but the ones we’ve outlined here are often the most successful and easily quantifiable.

Whatever you want to achieve from your presence at an exhibition make sure that you set clear and realistic goals before you go and measuring your performance shouldn’t be too difficult.